Straw to postpone EU referendum

Last updated at 14:55 02 June 2005

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is to announce on Monday that Britain's referendum on the EU Constitution is to be put on hold, sources have said.

Mr Straw will announce the Bill paving the way for the referendum is to be put on ice indefinitely, according to senior Foreign Office sources.

Without that Bill, the referendum cannot go ahead.

Mr Straw will make a statement to MPs following the double No vote in France and the Netherlands.

The British vote was expected to be held early next year but that will not now happen. Mr Straw's statement will increase speculation that the Constitution is now dead in the water.

Earlier Europe minister Douglas Alexander acknowledged that the new Constitution was in trouble.

"These two No votes leave the Constitutional treaty in serious difficulty," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"Certainly, from a British point of view, we are very clear of the need to respect public opinion and respect the results we have seen this week."

He rejected suggestions that the EU could still implement some "commonsense" elements of the Constitution.

"That denies the reality that this was extremely hard fought over by the 25 members all seeking to advance their national interest," he said.

"What seems to be commonsensical in one country,

as has clearly emerged in the last couple of days, is extremely contentious in another."

Crisis talks

European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso was holding a round of crisis talks today as argument raged about whether the constitutional treaty is dead or just badly wounded.

Even before last night's Dutch No reinforced the scale of the political disaster now facing the European Union, he warned against "unilateral initiatives" by any government leaders which would pre-judge a summit on June 16 to consider

the fall-out and where Europe goes from here.

Today he was relaying the message personally in talks with political leaders on all sides in the European Parliament.

Meanwhile the Parliament's constitutional affairs committee was holding a special session to read the small print of the document and work out what should be done next.

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